I love tins featuring foreign products or neat artwork. I see so much possibility in that metal! Even those crummy cookie or popcorn-filled tins I get in the holiday season have the potential to be something great.

Completed Book

In this tutorial, I’ll recycle a cute little tea tin into a cover for a small handbound book. Little books like this are great for jotting notes and sketches, and they make lovely gifts.

Tools You'll Need Here’s what we’ll need:

  1. Scissors are handy for cutting paper and string!
  2. A paper awl to make holes in your book’s signatures. You can also use a nail, a large needle, or any other metal pokey thing you have laying around.
  3. Smooth flat-nosed pliers for bending the metal. This little pliers is designed for jewelry making. It has smooth jaws, and its small size and rubber grip make it easy to use.
  4. A metal ruler will be useful when bending the edges of the metal.
  5. Pounding device! This one is a rawhide mallet, which is good for pounding on metals when you want to avoid making big dents or marring the surface. A rubber mallet works for that purpose too. You’ll also want a plain ol’ metal hammer for when we poke holes in the cover.
  6. A needle for binding the book. This is an upholstery needle, and the curve makes it easier to stitch the binding. A plain straight needle will work just fine though if that’s all you’ve got.
  7. Thread or cord to bind your book with. This is waxed linen, which works absolutely wonderfully for a binding like this. The wax makes the cord stick a little, keeping your signatures bound tightly.
  8. Metal cutting device of some sort! Don’t even try to cut with scissors. They’ll be ruined. Use metal snips or shears.
  9. Not Pictured: You’ll also need paper of course! Choose a paper that suits the intended purpose of your book. If you want to use it as a sketchbook, be sure to choose a heavier paper that is acid-free. The paper will need to be the same height and about twice the width of the cover.

Optional: An old catalog or phone book, a paper cutter, eyelets and eyelet setting tool.

Preparation of the Metal

The Tin To get started, clean your tin of any labels, tape, or sticky stuff. GooGone (a citrusy solution for removing sticky stuff!) works great for this.

DisassembleBefore you start disassembling: WARNING – the bare metal edges are extremely sharp!! Pleeeease work carefully and deliberately to avoid accidentally cutting yourself.
Many tins use a sort of crimping/folding to hold the tin in shape. Sometimes, by merely applying pressure in the right spot, you can force it apart. Other times, you’ll need to get it started with a pliers.

CuttingSometimes, you’re just going to need to cut it apart. With this tin, I was able to pop the center seam open easily, but the bottom wasn’t going anywhere! I cut that off with my cutters.

FlattenIf the metal is too curvy, smash it flat with a rawhide or rubber mallet.

Trimmed and SplitSome edges will be nicely folded over, and you can leave those alone. Cut off any rough edges, and then cut your metal into the size you want for your book. For mine, I just cut the piece in half in order to preserve as much of the design as possible.

Creating the Covers

Bending Up EdgesDo this part on a workbench or a surface you don’t mind pounding on. Line up your cover piece with the edge of the table, let about one-quarter inch hang over the edge and place the metal ruler on top, lined up with the table. Now, firmly holding the ruler down, you can bend up the overhanging edge with the pliers, and it will stay nice and even thanks to the ruler.

Smooth Down the EdgesNow take away the ruler and use the mallet to flatten and smooth down the edges the rest of the way.

EdgesDo the same to any bare edges on either cover piece, so that all the edges are safely folded over.

Make HolesUsing a paper awl or a nail, make evenly spaced holes on the cover edges that are to be bound. The number of holes is up to you and depends on the size of the book and how much stitching you want to do! I made three holes in my covers. (I didn’t put it in the photo, but I stuck an old magazine underneath the cover when I made my holes, so I didn’t go through my table!)

EyeletsThis is optional, but I highly recommend adding eyelets to the holes. This ensures they are smooth so the binding thread won’t stick or get cut.

Make Signatures

SignaturesNow you can cut and assemble your paper into signatures. My signatures are slightly smaller than the size of the cover. My book has six signatures made of six folded-in-half sheets of paper each. Within reason, you can have as many signatures as you want. The pages per signature will have to be kept low (unless you don’t mind trimming the rough edges) as the more pages you add, the thicker the signature gets, and the pages won’t align perfectly on the open edge due to the thickness.

Mark HolesUsing your cover as a guide, you can mark the holes that you’ll be punching into your signatures. Use a paper awl, a large needle, or that trusty nail.

Punch HolesAn old catalog, phone book, or other thick book makes a great place to rest your signatures while you punch the holes. It helps make sure they’re well aligned. So you don’t have to mark the holes each time, just steal a sheet from the first signature you punched and use that as the guide to punch holes in the other signatures.

Stitching the Book

Stitching 1To start stitching go through the first hole in the first signature, from the inside to the outside, leaving a tail on the inside. You’ll tie this off shortly…

Stitching 2Then go up through the cover,

Stitching 3and back through the same hole in the first signature.

Stitching 4Now tie a knot. You can trim off the tail if you like. Careful not to cut too close so that it comes undone.

Stitching 5Now go out through the next hole in the signature.

Stitching 6Go up through the cover and then back through the same hole in the signature.

Stitching 7Then go out through the last hole in the signature.

Stitching 8Go up through the cover, but do not go back through the signature. Loop under the thread connecting the last signature hole and cover hole, as pictured. Then add on the next signature by going through the first hole, outside to inside.

Stitching 9Come out through the middle hole of the signature and loop under the thread connecting the first signature’s middle hole to the cover. Then go back through the middle hole of the second signature.

Stitching 10Come out of the last hole and loop under the connecting thread above like you did before. Don’t go back into signature two. Add signature three going in through the first hole.

Stitching 11Come out through the middle hole, loop under the connecting threads above, go back through the same hole you came from.

Stitching 12Exit out of the last hole, loop under the connecting thread above, add on the next signature by going in through the first hole. Continue on, repeating the steps to add all the signatures. Stop when you exit the last hole of the last signature.

Stitching 13Loop under the connecting thread above, go down through the cover, then loop under both threads above the cover.

Stitching 14Go back through the last hole in the last signature.

Stitching 15Exit through the middle hole, loop under the connecting thread, down through the cover, under both threads, then back through the middle hole. Repeat the process with the remaining hole, ending by going back through that hole to end on the inside of the last signature.

Stitching 16Finally, tie a knot by looping under the thread inside the signature. Clip off the end.

Completed Book

Completed BookTa-dah! It’s done! The tin has been transformed into a nice metal-covered book!
You can see that my holes ended up a bit misaligned, as the stitching isn’t aligned from the cover to the signatures. Technically, it should all be fairly straight and aligned. Oh well. There’s always next time. I’ve been saving tins and snatching them up from relatives’ trash bins in order to put them to good use in projects like this one! More ideas to come… :D